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Lingonberries. Click the image for more
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Fruits of the Future? By David Elstein
January 5, 2005
Have you ever tasted an elderberry or lingonberry? How about an aronia
berry? These three lesser-known fruit crops are being studied by Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists who
hope to make these fruits more popular with consumers.
At the ARS
Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Ore., research leader
Hummer and her staff are studying what are called "minor crops"--fruits
that may be popular in other countries--to see if they can successfully grow
them here. Another example is the edible-fruited honeysuckle, which looks
somewhat like a blueberry and has its own unique flavor, very different from
the more popular ornamental honeysuckles with orange fruit.
There are more than 600 minor crops in the United States. While any
crop that's grown on fewer than 300,000 acres nationally is considered a minor
crop, many of the crops studied in Corvallis are grown on only a few hundred
In some cases, such as with kiwifruit, the fruit may start off as a
minor crop but eventually become a market staple. The scientists also are
studying hardy kiwifruit, which is related to the fuzzy kiwifruit found in
supermarket produce sections. The hardy kiwifruit has a smooth skin and is the
size of a large grape, but has green flesh and black seeds similar to the
Two problems with the current hardy kiwifruit cultivars are that they
are smaller than desired and only ripen during a three-week window, meaning
they can only be sold for a few weeks a year. Geneticist
Finn at the ARS
Crops Research Laboratory, also in Corvallis, is trying to identify new
cultivars from populations of wild hardy kiwifruit collected in China that have
larger fruit and ripen at different times in the season than current cultivars.
about the repository and the fruit research in the January issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.